Everything You Need to Know About Indiana’s OWI Laws

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Updated May 23, 2020 | Auto Accidents |


The consequences for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are severe. Impaired drivers endanger themselves and others, risk their futures, and risk their finances. The legal and financial penalties for driving under the influence can be steep.

Take a look at the details of OWI laws in Indiana, and remember: If you are a victim of a car crash involving a drunk or impaired driver, you’re not alone. The experienced car accident attorneys at WKW are here to help.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in Indiana

Drunk driving, or operating while intoxicated (OWI), is a criminal charge in the state of Indiana. Any substance that hinders a driver’s cognitive ability to control the vehicle and drive safely, namely alcohol or mind-altering drugs, is considered OWI. Impaired drivers experience a slower reaction time, shorter attention span, weakened hand-eye coordination, and warped judgement.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI), OWI, driving under the influence (DUI), drunk driving, and impaired driving are all identical offenses. They carry the same penalties, and the state of Indiana refers to these crimes collectively as OWI. No matter the name, the crime is the same: operating a motor vehicle of any kind under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Laws in Indiana

Indiana law considers drivers to be intoxicated if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels are equal to 0.08 or above, meaning that 0.08% of the bloodstream is composed of alcohol. The state of Indiana requires that commercial drivers maintain a BAC under 0.04 and that underage drivers maintain a BAC under 0.02.

As BAC increases, individuals tend to experience the following:

  • 0.02: Mild impairments to speech, memory, attention, coordination, and balance
  • 0.05: Weakened motor control and reaction time
  • 0.08: Significant impairments to concentration, short-term memory, depth perception, and information processing
  • 0.15: All driving-related skills are dangerously impaired
  • 0.20 or higher: Severe impairments to balance, speech, coordination, sense of judgement, and decision-making ability. Individuals may experience symptoms of alcohol poisoning, such as nausea, dizziness, and complete loss of consciousness

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over

If officers suspect driver of OWI, they are entitled to ask for blood, breath, or urine tests to determine the degree of intoxication in the blood stream of the suspected driver.

If drivers exceed Indiana’s legal BAC limit or are found to be otherwise cognitively impaired, they will receive an administrative license suspension and a hefty fine, which could range upwards of $500. The driver’s license suspension typically lasts for 180 days. After the first 30 days, probationary license privileges may be available. A conviction in court could result in further penalties, an extended license suspension, or a jail sentence.

Suspected impaired drivers also have the option to refuse a chemical test. Indiana’s implied consent laws allow suspected drivers to refuse tests from officers at the expense of an automatic license suspension and a steep fine. In this case, the driver’s license will remain suspended for up to two years. Although the driver may avoid an arrest this way, a conviction in court is still ultimately possible.

Criminal Penalties for OWIs in Indiana

Criminal penalties for OWIs in Indiana vary with the exact nature of each offense and the driver’s criminal history (which may include repeat offenses). Penalties for a driver’s first OWI offense typically include:

  • Fines
  • Suspension or probation of license
  • Jail time
  • Community service

Some offenders may be required to take frequent alcohol or drug tests, enroll in substance abuse programs, or participate in victim impact panels.

Penalties become more severe for repeat offenses and for those caught driving with a BAC of 0.15 or higher. Some convicted drivers are required to drive with an ignition interlock device, which requires a clean breath test to start the vehicle. A driver’s license can be permanently revoked if a driver commits two major offenses within a ten-year period.

The convicted driver’s insurance policy will suffer as well. Offenders are required to have high-risk, high-premium insurance policies for three years following their respective convictions. Failure to comply, either by not enrolling in the correct policy or driving without one altogether, will lead to further license suspension and more legal trouble.

It is possible to reinstate a license after it’s been suspended. Indiana has reinstatement offices that review impaired driving cases after a driver has complied with all penalties and requirements following a conviction.

Contact an Automobile Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a drunk driving accident, contact an Indianapolis auto accident attorney from Wilson Kehoe Winingham. For thirty years, the lawyers at WKW have handled treacherous cases involving severe injuries sustained in car accidents. We can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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